Thursday, October 29, 2015

To my dear June Cleaver...

Dear Mum,

It’s been over a week and a half since I told you I loved you for the last time. I said it every time we spoke just in case it would be the last, and here it is. It was the last time I told you how much you mean to me.

I have to confess this is the second time I have written this eulogy. The first was very stoic and it chronicled your virtues like a resume. There’s no denying that you were one classy lady. You even invented words for bodily functions that will haunt me to this day. You were always dressed impeccably and told me to never leave the house without lipstick. Your sense of humour never aligned with mine, and that was okay because I lived to shock you. I wore fake nose rings and spoke aloud the jokes you always wanted to tell but wouldn’t because it didn’t suit you. I was the why child, the one who always questioned the rules. What I didn’t question was your overwhelming love for me. And for Don, Dad, Loretta, Emily and Ryan. You had our best interests at heart. Always.

You were a worrier. Over minute details that would not matter minutes, hours or years later. You worried because you cared. And judging from the outpouring of support our family has received since you left, you have cared and worried for many. You also didn’t want to put people out, even when you had chemo appointments. You worried that you were a burden. You weren’t. Your friends, Don and I, we wanted to do these things for you because you were there for us, but most importantly, because we loved you and always will.

I was so proud when you rang that bell at your final chemo treatment, and prouder still at your resilience despite the hurdles, the bad days and when you wished Dad were still here but knew he wasn’t, at least not in the physical form.

I didn’t tell you this before but a week after Dad died, he visited me – to wake me up before my alarm. The same thing happened with you. Two days after we last said goodbye, I was sleeping in the basement at your house with Kao (and yes, he was on the mat on the floor and not on the bed). Five minutes before my alarm was set to go off, I heard a knock at the door – just the way you used to when you knew I was going to sleep in. I called out your name, opened my eyes and realized that hearing the knock was impossible because I was alone in the house. But I wasn’t, because I knew you were watching over me. Both of you are – Dad, my cheerleader and you, my lipstick-wearing conscience.

I’m going to leave you with a list of things I will miss about you. It’s not a complete list because there are so many moments and memories.

  • Your care packages of toilet paper, oatmeal and deodorant. How did you always know I was running low?
  • Your insistence of a Christmas list and your aversion to gift cards.
  • Watching you wave enthusiastically as we pulled out of your driveway after every visit.
  • Seeing you in the kitchen watching out for my car upon my arrival.
  • Your constant reminders about oil changes, tire rotations and to drive or walk carefully wherever I went.
  • Telling the story of how you would call four times during a half-hour walk to your house and then seeing your car slowly drive down the street looking for me because the streetlights had just come on. I was 35.
  • You yelling and cheering at our sports event, whether it was at Ryan’s baseball games and rowing meets, Emily’s hockey or baseball games, or seeing you running along the bank of the Grand River cheering my dragon boating team. My teammates could hear you.
  • Referring to you as June Cleaver because you wore housekeeping clothes and saved the good clothes for Dad coming home from work.
  • You tugging at my hair trying to convince me to cut it short – just like you.
  • Comparing my smile to yours and realizing they are one and the same because I come from you.
  •  Asking question upon question about your life and you bestowing me the stories so that I would eventually become the keeper of the family secrets.
  • I’ll miss the days before cellphones and the roll of quarters you insisted I carry when I was out and you wanted my report on where I was, where I was going and what time I’d be home.
  • I will miss talking to you every day and telling you that I love you, sometimes three times in one conversation because I just didn’t want to miss another chance.

I will love and miss you forever, June Cleaver. And I will always remember to apply lipstick before I leave the house.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A blip on the radar of life

It's a blip on the radar of life. It may seem like a small one, but for someone who is trying to get her life back on track, it could have been momentous.

For the past month and a bit I've been in training for two jobs. One is as a scheduler for a health care company sending out nurses and PSWs into people's houses. The other was as a medical office admin at a medical centre/walk-in clinic. I was hired at both (part-time), or so I thought.

The health care coordinator position is going well. I've learned so much and seen my confidence build. It was what was needed after a long road of obstacles and battles. The medical office gig was an exercise in futility. I had 36 hours of training over four days, and I was getting better, faster, more confident. That confidence was potentially shattered after finding out that a) the training was unpaid; and b) after a short training session, I was told that I was not yet fast enough to handle the plethora of patients on my own. I countered that remark by saying that I felt I would get faster with a little bit more time to learn the ropes - a new computer system, new procedures and the exact way the doctors and the managers liked for the work to be done. I filed, I billed, I directed patients to the appropriate rooms, I handled calls, I handled patients, all with a smile and the intent to do better and better. I was a hard worker who deserved more of a chance. Unfortunately, not everyone saw the potential that I saw in myself. In three days, I learned the inner workings of a very busy clinic. I managed people's case files and billed the services to OHIP, insurance companies and individuals. I mastered a very full paper filing system.I booked and confirmed appointments, sent out results and updated patients' health records. I learned a lot, and for that I will be forever grateful.

I was not grateful, however, for the lack of professionalism shown by the manager who could not give me a straight answer and who decided that I didn't deserve a return phone call or email when it came to making a final decision on whether I was to remain permanent or be on my way. I know the no answer approach was the answer, but I had hoped for a bit more class, and a chance to prove myself.

What I came to realize is that I wasn't getting the chance no matter what I did, whether it was to work faster, ask more questions or not be tired after a 10-hour day with a 10-minute break. It was unfair, but life is unfair and I can't expect everyone to uphold the rules that I live by: to be upfront and honest, and to offer professional courtesy even to someone just starting out. It's 36 hours I could have spent securing better employment, and 36 hours to which I was entitled to some payment for my work. And work, I did.

It could have been a huge setback for me mentally. Thankfully, it was just a small blip, and I remind myself that this was not a place I'd like to work anyways, a place where communication is not respected or practiced. Now I'm onto better and brighter opportunities, but I still have that worry in the back of my mind. I don't think it will ever go away, but at least I'm working on it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

You is smart, you is kind, you is important...

I love this line and will say this to myself, my Boxerbeast and anyone else who needs to hear it.

"You is smart. You is kind. You is important." The K-Dog knows the words - I've said it often enough to him - and he perks his ears and I swear, he smiles. They are words that we don't often hear and even less, say to ourselves. This year and last have been the catapult for change. Over the last five years, life has continued to hand me obstacles. It's been two years in August since my dad passed away suddenly from an aneurysm. He was there on the phone talking to me an hour before and then he was gone. My buffer, my slayer of demons, my rock was gone and I was left to pick up the pieces. I don't think I will ever get over losing him so suddenly, but looking back, I'm glad he went suddenly and with little suffering. The suffering remained with us - my mum, his wife of over 52 years, my brother and his family, my niece and nephew, and his multitude of friends who continue to share stories with me of the man my father was. And, as his daughter, I am so very proud of him and will continue to extol his virtues to whomever will listen.

That year, 2013, was a life changer. I had thought I had gone through enough changes and turmoil. Life had much more in mind for me. In the span of one year, I had an operation to remove a cyst and had a relationship end so abruptly that it left me reeling. I experienced a homeowner's nightmare when my basement flooded and I had a plethora of repairs with which to contend. I put my house on the market and had the house sale from hell, with four offers falling through and a house that remained on the market for five months before it sold. My dad left me a day after I moved to my new locale, my trusty car of over 11 years decided to kick the bucket and I got laid off. From January to October, life was pure hell. And then the real work started.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." It was time to get back to basics. After taking a bit to pick myself back up, I went to work. Psychoanalysis and Self-analysis. I finally found a counselor who heard me, listened to me, acknowledged me as a person and said the words I was yearning to hear for so many years: "You've been through a lot. There is a reason why you are the way you are." Even as I write this, I tear up. Two years and a lot of work later, those very words stand as a life preserver in a vast ocean that was my psyche.

My counselor, my friend, was a mirror. She showed me my image as I presented it to her and said: "You is smart, you is kind, you is important. This is what I see when I look at and speak with you. You are strong. You're still here. You're still fighting. You're constantly evaluating, re-evaluating and taking stock, and you're making the changes you need to be the person you were meant to be." Okay, it's not verbatim but it's what she said each week. We set goals. I attained them, and sometimes I didn't, but I always made the vow to try again the next week... and I did. I saw the spring in my step return, the smile on my face start to appear and a sparkle in my eye set to radiate again. "You are absolutely glowing" was a common phrase I started to hear. I sent myself back to school because the writers' market is not what it used to be. I realized I am meant to help people, so I signed up for the Medical Office Administration course at a local college and I not only succeeded but I excelled, attaining a 91 per cent while working part-time. I studied. I participated. I met new friends. I was placed at a hospital for more work experience, and while the job market is a crazy one, I secured nine interviews in two weeks and am now training at two different companies in the health field. I got one word wrong on my medical terminology exam after taking a CPR/First Aid training course, working nights and weekends at my part-time job. One wrong in a potential 500 medical terms. I was on fire.

It all stemmed from three sentences. "You is smart. You is kind. You is important." Those are words I rarely heard in my childhood and adult lives, and it was certainly something I wouldn't tell myself, because I was too busy concentrating on everything I was not. It is important to hear those words and say those words to yourself, but more importantly, it's best to accept yourself and see you for who you truly are. My friends saw it. My dad saw it, and now I see it. Granted, some days it's harder to see it than others, but it's then that I breathe, especially when worry seems to be getting the best of me. Seven seconds in. Five seconds to hold it in, and then seven seconds to exhale. It's all in the exhale. You let out the demons and forget what put you in that panicked place to begin with, and then you can pick up and continue your fight, no matter what war you're waging. Breathe. Remember who you are, and acknowledge that you may not be perfect every single second, but you're pretty darn awesome once you forgive yourself for your little imperfections and be the person you are meant to be.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." It's a line in a movie, but also a lesson for us all to learn. I'm so happy I learned it before it was too late.